Networking: Making Professional Connections

Today, 80% of company hires are in some way through a shared contact in their professional network.  Networking -- whether through a pre-planned meeting or an impromptu conversation at a conference, career fair, information session, or anywhere else -- will likely help you find your first job and also be crucial as you advance in your career.

 

Benefits of Networking

  • You may learn about job opportunities early
  • You’ll face less competition
  • You may be recommended by someone the manager knows
  • You’ll access potential employers who may not otherwise respond to an unsolicited resume

 

Our Alumni Advisor Network

The UMass Amherst Alumni Advisor Network is an online platform that enables you to access career advice from alumni already working in the field you want to join. Ask questions about career paths and industries, get feedback on your resume, or practice for your interview.  These advisors are UMass Amherst alumni who specifically volunteered to help current students up the career ladder.

 

Everyone is a Possible Contact

You may not know it, but your personal-professional network is already quite large.  It includes family members, family friends, peers, classmates, social organizations, clubs, advisors, professors, internship supervisors, past employers, co-workers, and recent graduates. By cultivating your immediate network, you gain access to an extended professional network.  Here's how to develop and extend your network:

  • Tell family, friends, other students, and immediate contacts about your career interests. Ask who they know that you might be interested in learning about or meeting if they would introduce you.
  • Share relevant contacts from your network with others and you will usually find such favors returned to you in kind
  • Join professional associations in your field and attend conferences. These are excellent networking resources, both online and in-person. Google “professional associations” and the name of your field, and you’ll find many options.  Your professors and teaching assistants can suggest the ones most appropriate for you. Many have student membership prices.
  • Contact former employers, direct supervisors and internship sponsors.  Describe your professional interests today and ask if they can suggest contacts.
  • Conference with faculty members, who often have connections with local businesses and employers in their field. 
  • Attend a lecture or read an article by a faculty member or person in your field.  Contact the person and express your interest in their topic and let the conversation develop.
  • Reach out to a company or organization directly to ask well-researched and appropriate questions.

Once you have identified potential networking contacts, the next step is to speak with them. An informational interview is a good low-pressure way to begin a conversation that can provide you with first-hand information about a career, trends in that field, details on hiring, or insight on the specific skills or qualities that employers are looking for. Read more in our section on Informational Interviews.

 

Events and Networking Opportunities

Meet and interact with employers on campus in several ways: visit one of our career fairs, attend an employer information session, or take part in on-campus interviewing.  To find out when these events are scheduled, check the weekly emails we send you and see our Calendar.

Career Fairs

Approach every career fair professionally to learn about opportunities and organizations and to meet actual hiring professionals. Bring copies of your resume, prepare to pitch yourself to potential employers, and dress and act appropriately. More information on career fairs, and tips for making the most of these events, are available in our handout: Make Your First Professional Contacts at the Career Fair.

 

Employer Information Sessions and Panels

Employer representatives like to visit the UMass Amherst campus to provide in-depth information about positions, career paths, and life at the organization. Bring thoughtful questions, dress appropriately, and use these opportunities to make a great first impression. Employers might ask you to schedule an on-campus interview for the next day!

 

On-Campus Interviews

You may get opportunities to interview with prospective employers when they are on campus. The companies who come to campus to interview are generally larger ones who:

  • Are seeking entry-level employees
  • Anticipate multiple openings across departments
  • Have budgets allowing staff to travel
  • Previously hired students from UMass Amherst

The scheduling of on-campus interviews is managed through Handshake.  In Handshake, you can find lists of employers who have scheduled interviews as well as links to job descriptions and application instructions.